YG and Donald Trump
BridgeND | Thursday, August 25, 2016
Late at night in Northern Canada’s Pemberton Valley, I stood among a crowd of thousands of other teens waiting with high anticipation for the concert headliner of the night: YG. I had heard a lot about him, but never cared to pay much attention to his music. Through eavesdropping the many apprehensive whispers that scattered the crowd, I quickly learned that the most anticipated song of the night was titled “FDT.” FDT? My imagination ran wild trying to guess what it stood for. My surface knowledge of contemporary rap made me think possibly, “Forget dem tramps?”, “Fools don’t trip?” Wrong. It didn’t take two seconds into the song for the title to be angrily spit through the million dollar sound system: “F— Donald Trump.”
In a dispiriting way, this hip-hop track serves as a microcosm for the larger theme of the crude, tactless discourse that is closely intertwined with contemporary American politics. This election season, while unprecedented in many ways, has seen an especially high level of character attacks from both sides. And worse yet have been the malicious interactions between Trump and Clinton’s supporters, which we have all witnessed on social media and live in some form.
But we must not forget that slanderous discourse is not a new thing to emerge in the American political arena. In only the fourth election in American history, influential journalist James Callender wrote that John Adams was a “repulsive pedant” who “behaved neither like a man nor like a woman but instead possessed a hideous hermaphroditical character.” The election of 1828 between Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams showcased a similar tone, with Andrew Jackson’s opponents calling his mother a “dead prostitute” and Jackson himself “a drunkard morally unfit for office.” Unfortunately, petty dialogue is deeply embedded in the historic vestiges of American politics, which has brought us to a point where talking politics is all but synonymous with fierce, aimless bickering. As a result, many people — young generations especially — have been turned off to politics all together.
While slanderous discourse might serve well as political fodder in an election, it has dire ramifications for everyday dialogue, especially on university campuses. Not only does it further entrench ourselves in our preconditioned beliefs, it also stifles the very intellectual growth that is the hallmark of a quality university education. While attending class is a vital component of our education, there is much more to our intellectual growth than absorbing the words of professors. Rather, true intellectual growth happens when we bring what we’ve learned in the classroom to the spaces in between: after class questioning the grounds of the professor’s stance on the legality of gay marriage; in that serendipitous conversation about the Arab-Israeli conflict with the student who immigrated from the Middle East; in the dining hall with close friends debating whether our school allocates an adequate amount of attention to the quality of dining hall food; and, at 3 a.m. in a dorm room discussing affirmative action. These authentic conversations that challenge existing beliefs and expose a person to the diversity of opinion, that value virtue over vilifying and ideas over insults, are the conversations that construct a truly productive education. Constraining these critical discussions to mere exchanges of insults and quips serves both to deprive ourselves of a full education and to contribute to the chaotic mudslinging surrounding this election.
YG may not have been entirely truthful when he rapped, “If truth be told, Donald is a terrorist,” but he was spot on when he said “separation is the enemy.” The crude, uncompromising approach many people take to when expressing their opinions either in politics or in any other subject matter is the main culprit of separation. It may even be what has led us to a point in politics where we are choosing between the two of the most unpopular candidates in American history. But if we take it upon ourselves to acknowledge the inherent complexities, biases and limitations of our own positions, while at the same time seeing the value and virtue in contrary opinions, we can get the most out of our education, and, over time, maybe even change the course of politics for the better.
Christian McGrew is a sophomore political science major. He can be reached at email@example.com
BridgeND is a bipartisan student organization that brings students from across the political spectrum together in discussions concerning public policy issues. The viewpoints expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of BridgeND, but are the individual opinions of the author. Contact BridgeND at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow them on Twitter at @bridge_ND
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.